Food Friday: Fishy Business


I admit it. I am no longer a vegetarian. About six months after arriving in the US, I moved into the murky world of the pescetarian, where carnivores regard me with confusion and vegetarians with disdain.

Get in ma belly! From National Geographic. Click through for original

On the one hand, I’m unhappy with this shift. I do feel some guilt, like I sold out on my values, and worse, like I’m a terrible hypocrite who only cares about land animals that I can better relate to. On the other hand, I made an informed choice to expand my diet – in many restaurants around Austin and Texas more generally, vegetarian options are limited – and in many others, they are utterly abysmal. I have held to my commitment in one sense, as I still have a very limited intake of animal flesh, and every time I do choose to eat fish, it is with additional thought and questioning. I feel like I made a choice that I am comfortable with in the circumstances. Whether or not I return to full vegetarianism when I return home, I don’t know yet.

But for now, having made the choice to eat seafood, I’m also trying to be as ethical about this as possible – partly because I do actually care about fish and the like, and partly, I’ll admit, to assuage the guilt I feel about eating it in the first place. So many species of fish are endangered and so many fishing practices are deeply unethical. Additionally, there is the question of farmed fish – it may seem like a solution to overfishing and poor marine stewardship practices, but it comes with a range of other environmental problems – chemical and antibiotic treatments are often given to farmed sea creatures, which then run off into the ocean as a whole and hormones are given to other species – again, washing into the ocean.

Here are some of the best resources I’ve come across to help me to make the best choices:

1) Seafood Watch – an app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. A handy way to reduce supermarket Googling.

2) The NRDC has some great pages with good info about things to look out for including how the fish is caught and the best overall choices to make.

3) The Marine Stewardship Council has a certification logo that you can look out for – it looks like this:

Whole Foods Market is one of the most reliable places to find certified fish.

4) In Australia, Sustainable Seafood also has an app for both Android and iPhone

5) Worldwide, the World Wildlife Fun provides a comprehensive listing of guides for 18 countries

If you know of any other good resources, please share them in the comments!

 

What is agroecology?


As we consider a world of 7 billion and counting, the same two questions are coming up over and over again – how will we ever have enough water? And how on earth can we feed that many people?

The issue of food is a controversial one – everyone has an opinion. They’re widely divergent opinions too – from those who believe that Big Ag and genetic modification is the solution to billions of hungry mouths, to those who promote an aggressively local and small-scale farming system as the only way to stave off global hunger.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not in that group of folk who think that GM and monoculture cropping are going to save the world. In fact, a future like that seems very bleak and dystopian to me – the idea of a handful of companies essentially owning our food and thus our bodies is abhorrent to me. Local and small-scale is wonderful, but not always realistic on its own – every city would have its challenges in producing clean and healthy food, other regions lack the fertility of soil and availability of good weather conditions to be able to fully sustain their populations. It’s a good start though, especially when it incorporates the principles of agroecology.

Image from agroecology.org

But what is agroecology? The word hasn’t yet acquired that buzz-word status, like ‘local’ or ‘organic’ (and, thankfully, hasn’t been diluted into a fuzzy meaninglessness like those words). And while agroecology can be seen as a relatively recent reaction to the shortfalls of industrial agriculture, it is based on farming techniques that are often hundreds of years old. Essentially, agroecology is a movement towards more sustainable farming methods, based on ‘time proven farming methods, new ecological science, and local farmer knowledge’ (McAfee in Cohn et al 2006). UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems describes it as the development of ‘sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, nonexploitative, and that serve as a foundation for future generations.’

From the Union of Concerned Scientists. Click through to embiggen.

Agroecology is therefore the antithesis of Big Ag. That sounds pretty appealing, for sure. But does it work?

Yes. Plus, it kind of has to. The 2013 Trade and Environment Review from the UN Commission on Trade and Development concluded that major changes in agriculture are necessary, recommending a ‘rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.’ Our current systems are not resilient (monoculture cropping is by its nature more vulnerable than polycultures), nor are they sustainable – the extensive requirements for chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides contributes to degradation of soil, of water supplies and climate change. Business as usual will end up business-as-it-used-to-be.

Agroecology has the potential to stop this damage to our agricultural systems and ensure a lesser environmental impact in three ways:

1)  A variety of crops are usually planted on each farm, rather than monocultures.  This also reduces the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides.

2) Crop biodiversity is preserved.  As discussed earlier, in situ conservation is vital to the preservation of the wide variety of maize landraces

3) Less land is required to produce a similar amount of food, thus posing less of a threat to the local environment

We need to make a change and agroecology has a small but positive track record – at the very least, running more trials, replicating these on a large scale and thus collecting more evidence of its efficacy is worth a shot, as it may well provide us with a solution to an eventual crisis.

Foodways Texas: Rice and Water


Happy Monday everyone! I’m back from spending some time at the Foodways Texas ‘Farm to Market’ symposium on Friday and Saturday in College Station – a few days of great food, lots of learning and meeting loads of intelligent, interesting and fun people.

We heard talks about organic vs. local food, Texas wine (surprisingly delicious!), growing olives and grapefruits in Texas, the history of rice in the region and the issues rice farmers are currently facing because of drought conditions, and about the supply chain involved in feeding Houston (the paper that I’d worked on with my wonderful mentor at UT, Dr Robyn Metcalfe). We also went to explore a local farm, Ronin Cooking where we toured around at sunset with wine and saw possibly the cutest piglet ever to piglet. Seriously.

IMG_20140321_191714

 

One of the most interesting sessions for me was the one about rice growing in Texas and the difficulties that come with such a water-dependent crop in a drought-crippled state. I’m no stranger to hearing stories like this – for years, I’ve wondered about how and why a drought-prone continent like Australia would grow a crop rice. In fact, it’s something I even did a short paper on, back in the first year of my MSc.

In the case of Australia, what I found was extensive innovation and efforts towards ensuring maximum efficiency from minimum input. To make the most of the water used to flood the rice fields, other crops that can utilise subsoil moisture are planted, like barley or wheat. Additionally, water use per hectare has dropped 30% in the past decade, while rice production has increased by 60% (savewater.com.au). I’m still dubious about rice-growing being viable in Australia in the long-term, (as well as feeling that the water used could perhaps be better utilised elsewhere), but for now, improvements like these have made rice a profitable and competitive industry.

Here in Texas though, the situation seems even more dire. It’s also much more emotionally driven, with large urban populations depending on the same water supply as rice farmers, i.e. the Colorado River. The Highland Lakes (just a little way north of Austin) are currently at only 38% of their capacity, which has a huge impact on those farmers in the Lower Colorado Rive area, where most rice in Texas is farmed. Furthermore, as Neena Satija, one of the panelists for the talk pointed out, this is unlikely to ever increase to levels which will allow for water restrictions in Austin to be removed – which obviously means that the challenges for Texas rice growers aren’t going away any time soon. Complicating matters further, they are unable to supplement their income as Australian growers can, through the planting and harvesting of other crops. While nights in Australia’s Riverina region where rice is grown tend to get quite cool, they remain warm, even hot here in Texas. This means that rice grows more slowly, not allowing for that extra window to grow other things.

All of this begs the question: how on earth do we deal with this? You can’t tell someone whose family has farmed rice for generations to ‘just stop.’ And as far as I can tell, you’ll take the lush green lawns of Austinites from their cold, dead hands. I honestly saw sprinklers running outside Sam’s Club at 2pm on a 100 degree afternoon. The situation is emotive enough that at Foodways, there was even a disagreement on what should be a hard, cold fact: the price of water for farmers. Neena contended that this was $6.50 per acre foot, but this was immediately disputed by another panelist, Ted Wilson from the Agrilife Research Center in Beaumont, who provided the figure $920-$960 per acre foot. This is a difference of over $900! Where on earth does the truth lie in all this?

While all of these arguments are going on, the drought still hasn’t broken, Austinites are still living with water restrictions (albeit, not terribly strict ones IMHO) and rice farmers downstream still don’t know if they’ll be able to plant a crop this year, or for that matter, next year. I’m not sure what the solution to all this is, but drawing attention to it is important. Urban Texans need to know what the implications of their desires for green lawns and clean cars are.  Texas’ future as a rice growing state is facing a greater threat than ever before, and the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers’ are in the hands of rain clouds and water lawmakers.

2014: Year of Family Farming


Last week, I recapped 2013, noting that in general, it wasn’t a great year for issues around food and the environment. I also mentioned a few hopeful things for the year ahead, but what I decided to leave for a post of its own was the United Nation’s declaration of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming.

The stated aims of the IYFF are:

‘to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.’

This is so significant, especially in the context of increasingly globalised and monoculturised (let’s just pretend that’s a word for a moment) agriculture. Increasingly Big Ag is buying up land in developing countries, damaging local ecosystems, reducing food security and eliminating traditional food cultures. I wrote extensively about this last year in a couple of posts, and if you’re really interested, I’d recommend reading Raj Patel’s Stuffed and Starved. 

Shifting the focus of food from our industrialised system to the more traditional smallholder model is important for all parts of the world though, not just for developing nations. The reasons are different, but the significance is not. So, how is this relevant to us in the ‘global north’?

1) Nutrition

I know I bang on about this a lot. But I really do think that if we devoted a bit more space to family farms that grew a variety of crops, and perhaps even bred some animals, we’d have a whole lot less HFCS and other processed rubbish, and a whole lot more real, fresh food. Maybe that’s really naive of me, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

2) Connection to food and place

It’s so easy these days to lose sight of the fact that food isn’t just conjured up by the magic supermarket fairy. I once read an article about kids who thought that yoghurt grew on trees ( no, really). This alone seems like as good a reason as any to start engaging communities with the process of growing and producing food. I honestly believe that every single child should have the opportunity to spend some time in a vegetable garden, getting their fingers grubby and watching plants grow. Whether that be in their backyard, at their school, in a community garden doesn’t matter. But it’s something that I think is absolutely essential.

3) Land management 

I’ve linked to this report before and I’ll link to it again. Monoculture cropping is destroying valuable fertile farmland. It’s also destroying much of the Gulf of Mexico, literally suffocating the ecosystem. Greater variety in planting means less need for fertiliser, and less erosion. Even diversifying just a portion of each of the huge monoculture farms in the USA could make a difference.

And so, while the IYFF is most relevant to developing nations, where people often rely on family farming for their most basic nutritional needs, it also needs to be taken seriously in other wealthier countries. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s going to mesh too well with the Big Ag bottom line.

On Golden Rice


Image from goldenrice.org

Skimming through Grist yesterday, I found this piece by Nathanael Johnson particularly interesting. Golden rice is a controversial issue, wrapped up in another controversial issue. It brings to the fore all of the moral, ethical and environmental questions of the GM debate, coupled with other questions about global health and human rights. It’s a messy issue, which I definitely don’t think can be split into “good vs bad” – such a dichotomy is too simplistic for an idea that is anything but.

As Johnson notes, and like much of what I’ve read about Golden Rice suggests, this did not start out as some great-big-corporate-scary-Monsanto idea. Golden Rice was the brainchild of people genuinely trying to help improve the health and nutrition outcomes of those who desperately need it. This is a really key point – this is what makes Golden Rice different to all those situations where farmers have been sued into financial ruin because the wind blew the next farm’s Monsanto crops onto their own.

Will it help though? I’m not sure. Like Johnson, I honestly do think it’s worth a shot. In general, I’m very, very circumspect about GM for reasons that I’ve discussed previously – namely the risk of cross-contamination, damaging the genetics of non-GM crops, and, even more so, the risks involved in a company “owning” the genetics of our basic foods. In the case of Golden Rice though, I don’t feel that we, in the global North, have the right to stop research into any food product that may improve quality of life and health outcomes in the developing world. Yes, I would have enormous concerns if it were being developed on a purely profit-motive basis. But it’s not, which to my mind makes it a completely different ball game.

Who knows if it will work? Only time and more research will tell for sure. Will biotech companies try to claim it as their very own, grand, lifesaving gift to the world? I think it would be naive to think otherwise. Are there risks involved if it does work? Absolutely, yes! But I also think that there are risks involved in not looking at every possible solution to global malnutrition, and I also think it’s naive to ignore the fact that technology may be one of those solutions.

SNAP and the Farm Bill – what does it all mean?


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image from newamerica.net 

“A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition in America” – Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut

Last Thursday, the Republican House voted to remove the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the Farm Bill. It took a wee while for me to get everything about this clear in my mind – I was fairly au fait with SNAP, but lacked much knowledge of the Farm Bill.  Given the complexities of it, I broke it down into bite sized chunks -hopefully this will help others to get a handle on it too!

1) What is SNAP and who does it help?

The Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA describe SNAP as a program which “offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.” In 2009, 45 million people were eligible for benefits, of which 32 million actually received them. Most of the recipients of this type of assistance are children and the elderly. Many of them are the “working poor.” In 2009, 43 percent of SNAP recipients were below the poverty line. With the receipt of SNAP though, 13 percent of that group moved back above the poverty line.

While SNAP is very efficient at reducing food insecurity in needy families (although unemployed adults with no dependents may only receive SNAP for 3 months of a 3 year time frame), according to Feeding America, the benefits often don’t last participants for the entirety of each month. SNAP plays an important role, but expanding it further would definitely be of nutritional benefit to many of America’s poorest families.

2) What is the Farm Bill? 

In short, the Farm Bill is basically the legislation that covers all agricultural policies in the US. It’s quite a complex legislation due to the huge number of ‘titles’ – essentially subcategories – which are part of it and due to the wide range of vested interests that are involved in these. In 2008, the Titles included commodity programs; conservation; trade; nutrition; credit; United States rural development; research; forestry; energy; horticulture; livestock; crop insurance and disaster assistance; commodity futures; trade and tax provisions; and miscellaneous. Each Farm Bill and its titles are renewed (and sometimes altered) every five years or so.

So, how is it linked to SNAP? The Farm Bill has been linked to food stamps since 1973. The Nutrition Title was the largest Title in the Farm Bill, covering 75 percent of its expenditure, of which SNAP accounted for 95 percent.

3) So, what does removing SNAP from the Farm Bill mean?

It depends on who you ask. As I understand it though, it is a blow to ensuring food security for the poorest families in the US. It transfers funding from those experiencing poverty to large agricultural corporations. The integration of SNAP and the Farm Bill wasn’t ideal – Michael Dimock argued in an article over at Civil Eats that the separation of agriculture and nutrition opens new possibilities in achieving better food policies that are less tied to Big Ag interests. I don’t disagree with him. But getting such good food policies approved may be an enormous challenge, and in the interim, if this Farm Bill sticks,  there are a lot of people who might just find themselves wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

References

Gail Collins writing in the New York Times

Michael Dimock at Civil Eats

Feeding America

Marion Nestle at Food Politics

New York Times

Snap to Health 1 and 2

USDA Food and Nutrition Service 1, 2 and 3

Entering the GM debate


I was conflicted when I read this piece on Science Sushi’s Discover blog.  On the one hand, I would agree that GM crops are not the Big Bad Wolf that many environmental groups (among others) make them out to be.  On the other hand, I feel that it skips over a number of the issues that do concern me about the increasing use of GM seeds around the world.

One is the potential for cross-contamination and damage to existing and heirloom crop varieties.  The other is the increased influence of agrochemical giants such as Monsanto and Syngenta over global food supply.

I’ve talked previously about the need to preserve genetic plant histories and the risks inherent in planting GM crops in  any sort of proximity to non-GM farms. What I haven’t discussed before is my discomfort with the patenting of GM technologies and the impact that this has on farmers, particularly in developing nations.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that genetically modified crops are hugely beneficial to nutritional outcomes in the developing world.  There is the option of planting them in isolation, thus no opportunity for them to cross-contaminate other crops.  We’ve got the perfect bubble, right?

The questions then though; are who owns the seeds?  Will they be sterile and will farmers need to buy replacements every year?  Will they be able to afford to? If they’re not sterile, will farmers be allowed to save seeds?  While the scientists who undertake the genetic research to create these new plant species are often funded by governments and universities, they are also heavily funded by large agrochemical companies – for example, in the case of Golden Rice, one of the best known GM developments for humanitarian purposes, Zeneca (now Syngenta) received an exclusive licence based on their funding to researchers.  In this particular case, according to the researchers, Syngenta supported the humanitarian purposes. But what if they hadn’t? What if they had behaved in a similar manner to Monsanto in Missouri in 2002?

We cannot doubt the fact that such companies are phenomenally powerful and that they already have enormous influence over agriculture and food.  We also know that they do not always behave in an ethical or transparent manner.  Are we prepared to extend their reach even further, when we could potentially feed the world without taking that step?

To me, that’s one of the biggest issues of the GM debate.

When science is ignored


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Bees – the cause of some of the most recent controversy about scientific independence

I’ve been quite alarmed by some of the articles that I’ve read this week.  The first was this piece by George Monbiot, condemning the UK’s Chief Scientist for playing politics rather than representing honest science.  The second was a post on Bad Astronomy, about the interference of the sphere of politics into that of science in the United States.

What happens when scientists becomes spineless?  What happens when the political agenda defines the scientific agenda and removes peer review along the way?

The world is at a critical point in so many ways. Climate change and our energy future, deforestation, rising rates of species extinctions are all current and concerning. They are also all issues that are politically fraught and, rightly or wrongly, highly debated.  Now, more than ever, the independence and non-partisan nature of science needs to be ensured. All evidence needs to be considered and presented scientifically and without bias.  As Phil Plait notes, ‘when a society’s government starts dictating what can and cannot be investigated, scientific and creative progress stalls.’

Not only does it stall, it also throws us to the mercy of Economics, Growth and Big Business that determine so much of the political agenda, and at the moment, that’s the last thing we need.

 

Extracts from ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’


Yesterday, David sent me a link  to images from a book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluision.  It was in turns heartbreaking and horrifying, but overall completely fascinating.  You can find a number of the images here.

There were a few things that I found particularly interesting.  One was that in many cases, the food represented in the wealthier nations was more calorie dense and less nutritionally dense compared to that in less wealthy nations.  While there was less food per person in say, Guatemala  the nutritional quality was far superior to that found in the US basket of foods.

Guatemala

USA

Another thing that stood out was the striking difference of the carbon footprint of a ‘Western’ diet compared to some more traditional/ less industrialised diets.  For example, Turkey vs. Australia.

Turkey

Australia

LOOK AT THE MEAT!  OH MY GOSH! LOOK AT ALL THE DAMN MEAT.  In fairness, I don’t know a lot of people who eat that amount of meat, but as a representative basket for many Australian families, I don’t think that it’s that far off.  When that’s considered in the context of how much environmental damage is caused by animal farming, and how much it contributes to climate change, it’s just gobsmacking what a huge impact we’re having.  The Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eaters Guide is one of my favourite resources on this.

Some of the images were of course, totally unsurprising.  The enormous gulf between the quantity available in some countries compared to others was expected, but the starkness of the images was still quite confronting.  As it should be.  The inequality between the availability of food and between the levels of environmental destruction that we wreak through what we eat are issues that should be widely known and considered.  Climate change isn’t just a matter of driving less and turning the lights out, and food shortages in many countries are still a reality, even when there aren’t starving children on the TV every night.  I’d really encourage you to check out the link, and indeed the book.  It’s mesmerising stuff.

Notes on Corn: Part 3


 

Today I’m finishing up my wee Notes on Corn series with a bit about food sovereignty and agroecology.  It’s the good part of the story, the part where people work towards change for the better and unite to retain their identities and protect the agricultural future of the planet.  Food sovereignty and agroecology movements= awesome.

Such movements are not limited to maize farmers and involve producers of a range of crops from a range of countries, both in developed and developing nations.  As McAfee describes it, farmers and peasants worldwide ‘are challenging liberal views of citizenship as a set of rights and responsibilities granted by the state’ (McAfee in Cohn et al 2006).  The movements that have stemmed from such challenges to identity have included the international peasant organisation, La Via Campesina, as well as new models for global agriculture and food production, such as food sovereignty and agroecology.

La Via Campesina is one of the most important organisations to draw together the movements that have stemmed from these new global identities to work for change in the international food system.  Firstly, it ‘[consolidates peasants] collective identity […] building alliances with other social movements and progressive non-governmental organisations (NGOs)’ (Desmarais 2008).   This ability coalesce the aims and values of disparate movements – it comprises around 150 local and national organisations from  70 countries – has shaped La Via Campesina’s overall goal, i.e. the movement away from industrial agriculture to a system based on food sovereignty.  Secondly, since its inception in 1993, it has become a broad enough social movement that it is heard by organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Food sovereignty, as defined by La Via Campesina, is:

  • The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems… It puts the aspirations, needs and livelihoods of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
  • Food sovereignty prioritizes local food production and consumption. It gives a country the right to protect its local producers from cheap imports and to control production. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, water, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those who produce food and not of the corporate sector. Therefore the implementation of genuine agrarian reform is one of the top priorities of the farmer’s movement. (La Via Campesina 2011).

Food sovereignty thus describes an alternative economic, political and ecological system.  It removes peasants from their role as contract farmers to large agribusinesses, allowing them choice in what they grow and how they sell their produce, which may, in its turn, improve food security.  Furthermore, proponents of food sovereignty suggest that when ‘livelihoods […] are tied to the longer-term health and productivity of the land […] farmers have more incentive to conserve and improve soils, landscapes and water systems’ (McAfee in Cohn et al 2006).  As such, food sovereignty represents a paradigm shift, from corn as commodity back to corn as food.  For large agribusinesses, the trade of corn as a commodity means that such externalities as the environment are of less interest – they can easily move elsewhere if the land ceases to be productive.

Food sovereignty is not the only movement towards more sustainable farming that has developed in response to the neoliberal agricultural system.  Agroecology is also a growing international movement towards more sustainable farming methods, based on ‘time proven farming methods, new ecological science, and local farmer knowledge’.   While the movement itself can be seen as a relatively recent reaction to the shortfalls of industrial agriculture, it is based on farming techniques that are often hundreds of years old. Agroecology has been described as a genuine alternative to current agribusiness models, with some authors suggesting that over the next 10 years, small-scale farmers will be able to double food production using currently available agroecological methods (Altieri et al 2012).   In terms of its environmental impact, it involves greater biodiversity than conventional agriculture in three ways:

1)  A variety of crops are usually planted on each farm, rather than monocultures.  This also reduces the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides.

2) Crop biodiversity is preserved.  As discussed earlier, in situ conservation is vital to the preservation of the wide variety of maize landraces

3) Less land is required to produce a similar amount of food, thus posing less of a threat to the local environment

In addition to the environmental advantages of agroecology,  its impact on re-peasantisation and the overall survival of rural and peasant culture should also be considered.   Agroecology is thus a particularly interesting movement because it suggests that agriculture, prosperity in both developed and developing nations, and the health of the environment are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Such reactions to industrial agriculture and unsustainable farming techniques are also not exclusive to farmers in developing nations.  Alternative agricultures are also emerging in developed nations such as the United States, where the ongoing sustainability of productivist farming methods has been questioned, in terms of both their human and environmental impacts.  In a parallel to ideas of food sovereignty, movements towards alternative food networks that encourage ‘ healthier food and environments […] long term maintenance of farming livelihoods, the provision of quality food and nutrition to individuals regardless of socio-economic status, and the distribution of public goods’ are gaining momentum (Trauger and Passidomo 2012).  Such alternative notions of agriculture, like food sovereignty, reimagine economies as local rather than international networks, reimagining producers as economic actors in their own right, rather than as subservient to major agribusinesses.

Food sovereignty and agroecology, as well as moves towards post-productivist agriculture in developed nations are thus challenging the status quo and the notion that prosperity in the developed world must come at the expense of the health of the environment and the prosperity of developing nations.  Given that most of these movements are still relatively young though, the full extent to which such movements are able to truly challenge the power of global capitalism in corn agriculture, still remains to be seen.  Exciting, no?

Bibliography for the series
Altieri M A,  Funes-Monzote F R, Petersen P 2012,   Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: contributions to food sovereignty, Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 32:1-13.
Bellon M R and Berthaud 2006, Traditional Mexican agricultural systems and the potential impacts of transgenic varieties on maize diversity, Agriculture and Human Values, 23:3-14
Cox C, Hug A, Bruzelius N 2011, Losing Ground, Environmental Working Group, http://static.ewg.org/reports/2010/losingground/pdf/losingground_report.pdf, Accessed 23 September 2012.
Del Casino Jr. C 2009, ‘Social Activism/ Social Movements/ Social Justice’ Social Geography: A Critical Introduction, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell: 154-182.
Desmarais A A 2008,  The power of peasants: Reflections on the meanings of La Vía Campesina, Journal of Rural Studies, 24:138–149
Fitting E 2006, Importing corn, exporting labor: The neoliberal corn regime, GMOs, and the erosion of Mexican biodiversity, Agriculture and Human Values, 23: 15–26
Ford Runge C 2002, Institutional Innovation in International Governance to End Hunger, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 84(3): 839-844.
Hunt S A and Benford R D 2004, ‘Collective identity, solidarity, and commitment’ in Snow D A, Soule S A, and Kreisi H (eds) The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 433-458.
Keleman A 2010, Institutional support and in situ conservation in Mexico: biases against small-scale maize farmers in post-NAFTA agricultural policy,  Agriculture and Human Values, 27:13–28.
Kneen, B 1999, Restructuring food for corporate profit: The corporate genetics of Cargill and
Monsanto, Agriculture and Human Values, 16: 161–167.
Koc M and Dahlberg K 1999, The restructuring of food systems: Trends, research, and policy issues, Agriculture and Human Values, 16: 109–116,
La Via Campesina: The International Peasants Voice, http://viacampesina.org/en/, Accessed 5 November 2012.
Lang T 1999, The complexities of globalization: The UK as a case study of tensions within the food system and the challenge to food policy, Agriculture and Human Values, 16:169–185
May P H and Segura Bonilla O 1997, The environmental effects of agricultural trade liberalization  in Latin America: an interpretation, Ecological  Economics, 22:5-18.
McAfee K 2003, Corn Culture and Dangerous DNA: Real and Imagined Consequences of Maize
Transgene Flow in Oaxaca, Journal of Latin American Geography, 2(1): 18-42
McAfee K 2006, ‘Sustainability and Social Justice in the Global Food System: Contributions of the Yale Workshop’ in Cohn A, Cook J, Fernández M, Reider R, Steward C (eds) 2006, Agroecology and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty in the Americas, http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/14506IIED.pdf?, Accessed 3 November 2012.
McAfee K 2008, Beyond techno-science: Transgenic maize in the fight over Mexico’s future, Geoforum, 39 (1):148–160
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